Johannesburg - EFF leader Julius Malema says H&M stores in South Africa are closed, "because they called our children baboons".
Malema was addressing what they call "Ground Forces" on their 2018 programme in Westernberg, Limpopo on Saturday afternoon.
"We are teaching them [H&M] a lesson, we are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us, or to exclude us. We are black and we are proud. We are black and we are beautiful. We are black and we are not ashamed of being black."
The retailer came under fire after it showed a black child in a sweatshirt with the words "Coolest monkey in the jungle," printed on it.
H&M has since apologised and removed the image as well as the sweater from retail.
A large group of EFF supporters stormed H&M stores in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town on Saturday, trashing the stores in an apparent protest of an online ad that has been labelled racist.
Gauteng police confirmed that they had used rubber bullets to disperse protesters at the East Rand Mall in Johannesburg.
'They went because they wanted to go'
Police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said protestors had managed to gain entrance to the H&M shop in the East Rand Mall and steal several items.
"Police had to intervene and dispersed the group of protesters by firing rubber bullets," Dlamini said.
Malema said they did not send EFF supporters to thrash the stores.
"They went because they wanted to go. To say people were sent, it means you are undermining black people that they cannot think on their own. Malema would never put a gun on anyone to go to H&M," Malema said.
Malema is not the Holy Spirit, he can't be everywhere all the time, he said.
PR and communications manager for H&M South Africa, Amelia-May Woudstra said stores in the country have been temporarily closed.
"What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers. None of our staff or customers has been injured," Woudstra said.
She said they would continue to monitor the situation and would open the stores as soon as everything was safe again.
"We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image."
Malema said they were hoping to build a powerful organisation that would put a roof over the heads of African children.
"No African child should go to bed hungry where there is a branch of the EFF or where there is a councillor of the EFF," Malema said.
He said leaders should always be humble and be a servant of the people.
"You cannot be the servant of the people when you suffer from arrogance. Every time you want to be noticed that you are president. Sometimes it helps to arrive and keep quiet and leave without being recognised."
"Sometimes you don't have to be in front to be called a leader, you can lead from behind with your ideas," he said.
"Never be ahead of your people when you are a leader."